West Hollywood West Organizes Against 8899 Beverly Proposal

8899 Beverly Project
A view above the current 8899 Beverly area shows where proposed townhouses would go behind the ICM building along Rosewood Avenue. A park and multi-family homes would be built to the east. Along Beverly, Townscape Partners proposes to expand the current building.

 

West Hollywood West residents have organized to fight a proposal to dramatically expand a commercial building at 8899 Beverly Blvd. and add townhomes and affordable-housing units nearby.

Residents say the plan, put forth by building developer Townscape Partners, will threaten the neighborhood’s way of life. It is one of the few neighborhoods in West Hollywood characterized by single-family homes rather than apartment buildings.

Developers say they are only trying to improve upon an aging building, and that their plans will actually “de-intensify” use. Their plans largely hinge on whether they can convince the city to change zoning for the area, where multi-unit housing currently is not permitted.

“This will vastly change the nature of our street,” said Seth Meier, who is spearheading the neighborhood opposition and who lives directly across from the parking lot on which the townhomes would be built. “It will increase the density of our quiet neighborhood, and the proposed design isn’t in keeping with the other homes on the street.”

“It’s a de-intensification of use,” said John Irwin, one of the managing partners of Townscape Partners, the company developing the building. “This is the most green thing you can do for an obsolete building.”

ICM building
The 8899 Beverly office building, commonly referred to as the ICM building, was built in 1962.

The 8899 Beverly office building, commonly referred to as the ICM building because talent agency International Creative Management once had offices there, was built in 1962. It is known for its distinctive balconies and Mid-Century Modern style and has one level of underground parking. Facing Beverly Boulevard, it sits between Robertson Boulevard and Almont Drive. Shortly after the building’s completion, the owners purchased 12 residential lots on Rosewood Avenue directly behind the building and created a surface parking lot for the office tenants, buffering it from the residential neighborhood with a 10-foot wide stretch of green space.

In July 2012, a group called Beverly Boulevard Associates, a partnership of Townscape and Angelo Gordon & Co., a New York City investment firm, purchased the building and accompanying parking lot for $38.5 million. It began making plans to convert the building to condominiums and to develop the parking lot. Townscape also became active in local politics, donating $2,500 to a campaign committee opposed to term limits for incumbents. Its principals, Tyler Siegel and John Irwin, were donors to the campaigns of incumbents John Duran and Jeffrey Prang in the March 5 election.

The new owners plan to expand the building, currently 10-stories and 89,000 square-feet, by 25 feet at the rear and on both sides. The building’s upper floors will be converted to 59 condominiums (including seven units of affordable housing for low-income tenants), while leaving retail and offices on the lower two floors. The popular Italian restaurant Madeo will remain in the building.

Rosewood green space.
Rosewood Avenue green space.

Perhaps more controversial than Townscape’s plans for the 8899 Beverly building itself is the proposal to build an underground parking garage beneath the existing surface parking lot behind the Beverly building and then erect 14 townhomes with a pool and clubhouse on top of it. Townscape also proposes to erect a nine-unit building for moderate-income affordable housing nearby.

Irwin says changing the aging building from offices to a mix of residential and office spaces is  an “adaptive reuse” necessary because demand for office space in the city is low.

Residents worry that the townhomes will change the nature of their neighborhood, the affordable housing will bring crime and lower property values, construction will create noise and health problems, and they will lose the strip of green lawn that buffers the commercial building from their homes. Furthermore, they believe the city will set a dangerous precedent if it changes the zoning to accommodate the development.

A major concern is the impact on residential property values. West Hollywood West homes typically fetch prices in the high six figures, sometimes more than $1 million.

“It’s going to affect property values negatively, both in the short term during the construction and in the long term on that street,” said Brian Mazurkiewicz, a real estate agent with the John Aaroe Group. Mazurkiewicz lives in West Hollywood West, but on the eastern side of San Vicente Boulevard.

Tyler Siegel, the other principal in Townscape, disagrees. “I would not be building this if I thought it would lower the property values,” he said.

Whether Townscape can proceed depends on the West Hollywood City Council.

“The whole linchpin of the project depends on changing the zoning,” said Meier. “For them to be able to build anything involves changing the zoning.”  City planners, however, have offered the developer another approach, suggesting it seek permission from the City Council for a “specific plan.” By granting “specific plan” approval, the city essentially removes an area from the existing zoning ordinances and establishes zoning for that specific parcel of land.

The City Council has permitted only three other specific plans zoning exceptions  — one of the Sunset Strip, one for the Pacific Design Center and one for Movietown Plaza, the development project on the east end of Santa Monica Boulevard.

Local residents argue that even a specific plan designation might not allow the developer to build on the grassy strip behind 8899 Beverly. Some argue that the City of West Hollywood owns that land, having inherited it from Los Angeles County when the city was incorporated in 1984. Others believe the county still owns it. Irwin, however, says a 1967 document proves the 8899 Beverly building owns all the land up to the sidewalk on Rosewood.

City planners have not yet made a recommendation to the City Council on the project.

“We don’t have a position yet because it’s too early in the process,” said John Keho, the city’s planning manager, adding that his staff is merely working with the developer on the proposal at this point to help them improve it.

A neighborhood meeting held on Feb. 12 drew a packed house. Irwin and Siegel explained the project then listened to concerns of the neighbors, many of them irate. Several more public meetings will be held before the project goes before the Planning Commission and then the City Council for approval.

“There will be plenty of opportunities for the public to have input,” said Keho, pointing out that the city hasn’t yet commissioned an Environmental Impact Report, which typically takes 9-12 months to be completed. “This still has a long way to go.”


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WE R 1B
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WE R 1B

Come voice your opposition to the project.

City Council Public Hearing
Monday, September 22nd, 2014
re 8899 Beverly Blvd – 8846-8908 Rosewood Ave
West Hollywood Park Public Meeting Room – Council Chambers
625 N. San Vicente Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Henry (Hank) Scott
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mike
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mike

The current owners of 8899 have done nothing to improve upon the building or it’s upkeep. Since it was sold it seems to be falling apart. Aside from some of the tenants who I know and can confirm this, I live on the block and have to look at it. Parts are falling off, it needs to be painted and once a week in the evening large motor runs for hours pumping grey water into the green space behind it.

Lester
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Lester

Did somebody really just compare 13 moderately sized town homes to a 50-story tower? The hyperbole is strong with this one.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Revised plans including adding 28 ft to N, E and West sides with and added 10th floor penthouse. How does ‘specific plan” fit into weho’s general plan?

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Agreed! the 6 homes you are referring to are overbuilt and exceed the square footage the developer was able to build…how did this go thru planning and get permitted?

Michael dwyer
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Michael dwyer

This is what you get when apathetic voters don’t pay attention to city politics and keep electing a city council that has been in office too long using the city as it’s own atm. There is one developer who has already built about 6 homes that look like modern track boxes. He clearly has paid someone off to get the permits for these eye sores. I support a transparent independent investigation and audit of the city council and the planning office to rule out corruption and illegal activity.

Dana Miller
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Dana Miller

I spent many an hour in that old ICM building for a ton of clients. Great memories. PLUS, I had forgotten but was reminded that in the early 80’s, that block of Rosewood was VERY cruisy. I think I met a boyfriend there once upon a time! 🙂

Snarkygal
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Snarkygal

Reply to reply to me:

There are low income renters on your block of single family homes? Gee, I would like to know how that happens so I can move to that nice neighborhood.

I hope it will work out for all involved.

Seth WHWR
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Seth WHWR

After reading all the comments, I thought I should comment: I think James did a nice job looking at all sides of this matter and will continue to do so. I would say, that I do not feel like a spearhead of opposition, rather a collector of information to help inform the rest of the neighbors and residents in the area as I am reporting back to WHWRA, which if you do live in the area, you should be a member to find out what is going on. The reality is that the developers are looking at this as a… Read more »

Henry (Hank) Scott
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reply to Snarkygal
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reply to Snarkygal

As a member of the neighborhood, no one really cares about the affordable housing or believes it will bring crime, and in fact encouraged it in the main development in the 8899 tower. It was said over and over that it is welcome where a multi unit is already zoned. However, it has more to do with the current zoning of single family homes and turning it into a commercially zoned are in current residential zoned area. If you bought a home in a area zoned for residential and someone proposed to turn 13 plots into commercial zoned strip, you… Read more »

Stephanie
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Stephanie

When I read this article, I thought to myself, “where have I seen the name Townscape before? Then, I remembered Townscape, ( Bev. Hills) made a two thousand , five hundred dollar donation to No on C Term Limits campaign for West Hollywood, the measure that every councilmember, but John D’Amico, opposed. At the time I saw the contribution I thought, “why would a company in Bev. Hills care if WeHo had terms limits?”

Snarkygal
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Snarkygal

I am offended by the neighborhood’s belief that “the affordable housing will bring crime and lower property values”. 7 units of low-income housing and 9 units of moderate income (which is pretty decent income) nearby will ruin the neighborhood? This is NIMBYism at its worst. I happen to be low income and I would not bring crime or lower your property value, you snobs!